A couple of weeks ago, we told you about the troubled production of director Barry Sonnenfeld's Men in Black III, reporting on the myriad writers, the troubled script being hammered away upon by those myriad writers, as well as the various delays and cessations of filming. Well, my friends, people working on the film are starting to talk, and it seems things are even worse than we thought.
In a recent article, The Hollywood Reporter has pulled back the curtain surrounding this plagued movie and given us a peek at a production completely out of control.
In our previous piece, we mentioned that the flick's start date had been pushed from October to November 2010 due to concerns about the script — and, man, were those concerns valid. We now know that when filming began in November, only the first act of the screenplay was actually complete. The current ongoing halt in production, which began in December and was planned to end in February, was actually built into the filming schedule by Sony, the studio in charge of this mess, to allow the script to be finished (this is absolutely crazy, by the way). Needless to say, David Koepp, the writer charged with trying to fix the screenplay, missed the February start date and is now hoping to be done by March 28. This production halt is costing millions of dollars, but Sony believes any losses will be offset by New York state tax breaks — though Hollywood insiders doubt this to be true, with one unnamed major executive saying, "There isn't any tax break that would convince me to do [what Sony did] — ever!"
The studio and producers seemingly love the screenplay's first act, and that's part of the problem. Koepp has to keep the beginning intact and make sure whatever he writes fits with what's already written, a chore made more difficult by the movie's time-travel storyline. One source believes the fact that the first act is untouchable "creates problems that are just crazy" when combined with the "bullshit loopholes" that time travel always causes. Personally, I think this source is wrong. Once time travel is introduced into a story, all bets are off — anything is possible and the writer can get away with murder (literally). Sure, he won't be proud of himself, but the crowds at the multiplex won't care. If one of the more observant audience members points out the inevitable inconsistencies, his friends will surely just shrug and say, "It’s time travel, dude! Chill! That alien was sick, yo!"
Another major problem seems to be Will Smith's recent decision that he's a writer as well as a major box office attraction. According to another source close to the film, the rapper turned actor turned producer turned budding megalomaniac has "become very enamored with aspects of screenwriting" and, hey, Smith's process "takes a long time." But this is not new behavior. Word is that Smith has pulled the same thing over at HawthoRNe, the TNT drama that stars wife Jada Pinkett Smith. In his role as producer, he has drawn the ire of the show's cast and crew by submitting "pages of notes and rewrite requests" every week, causing one source to say, "He's been inserting his input and requesting so many changes to the script that it pushed back the production schedule tremendously and caused everything to spiral out of control. Everyone is praying for him to book a new movie so that he will go away."
Sounds bad, right? But wait, there’s more! The stresses of the runaway production are also taking their toll on the relationship of Sonnenfeld and producer Walter Parkes, who The Hollywood Reporter states has a "handsome head of gray hair." These men have fought bitterly in the past, but had mended fences to work on Men in Black III. But now, they are at each other's throat again.
Another of the many unnamed sources says, "A lot of the blame gets put on Barry because he's so neurotic and out there, but the real evil here is Walter trying to impose his point of view on things. And because he's so facile and he's got great hair, he wins the day a lot. But what sounds great never materializes into a screenplay." Boy, never underestimate the power of great hair in Hollywoodland!
It seems that Parkes has quite a rep for not being friendly to creatives. Noted screenwriter Dale Launer goes on record to say Parkes "sort of cuts your balls off a little as a creative person. He gets to do the fun stuff, and you're supposed to make his ideas work." Apparently, Koepp took the rewrite gig on the condition that he wouldn't have to "meet with or speak to Parkes." Huh, I guess Koepp doesn't care about hair.
Despite all of this, Sony is keeping a brave face, stating that Men in Black III will definitely open on time, though I still recommend fans of this seemingly doomed franchise not hold their breath. There's still lots left to do before May 25, 2012 — you know, like write the movie and shoot the movie and edit the movie and score the movie and...